B Cycle – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 21
It is extremely easy for us to read the scriptures and focus on the big issue while overlooking the small details. Yet, it is in the smallest details we find the hidden treasures of “the living word of God’ speaking to us. In the Old Testament, God promises us he will put his law “on our hearts” (Dt.6:6). Not in our hearts but on them, seems to be an error in interpretation but my Jewish friend says no, God said on our hearts. Why is this important to us is because it seems the result is not the same? On our hearts means that his word has not penetrated our hearts as it would be if it is in our hearts. Those words spoken to Moses were about the commandments given to us so we might have life.
Why is this important for us is because Paul tells us the law cannot do anything but to point out the fact that we have sinned (Rom. 3:30). He continues by saying the law kept us in check until the law of the Spirit came (Rom. 8:2). God did something to move the law, designed to keep us in check and taught us right from wrong from on our hearts to within our hearts by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Ez. 36:26). The real issue for us is when and how that happens? There must come a time in our spiritual journey when we realize we are by our effort living the Christian life by a reliance on the laws, rituals, dogmas, and on a concept of holiness which dictates acceptable behavior in God’s house.
In today’s gospel we see how those visible actions can puff us up and increases our tendency to rely on them for people to notice our “holiness.” That kind of holiness is the result of the law being upon our hearts and not in our hearts. The two widows in today’s readings show us how the law in our hearts provides us with a faith that trust in God’s promise to provide us all we need. Two widows separated by eight hundred years of societal change, yet they were willing to respond to the request to give even if it left them with nothing. The amazing thing about them is we would know nothing about these two unless God wanted us to take the time to think about our own responses to God. You must believe these stories have a significant lesson for us to reflect on and respond to.
This means this story is not about them, it is all about God revealing something about us and faith. How we too can wrestle with decisions that on the surface seem to be clear cut and our response will be to protect our families, our self-survival, and our future. You would think the widow of Zarephath would feed her son before she fed Elijah. You would think the widow would not put her coin in the temple treasury but keep it for her own needs.
How did they get that much faith? The difference between these widows and the scribe in the gospel shows us the difference between faith in action and how we can use action to show faith. They tell us the difference between the law being in our hearts versus on our hearts. It also tells us something about how hard it is to enter the kingdom of heaven if that law never enters our hearts. Remember weeks ago, when we heard Jesus say, ‘how hard it was for those with wealth to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Well, adherence to the law or rules as the foundation of our faith falls under that umbrella. Practicing our faith by strict obedience to standards keeps us from experiencing God’s presence and guidance in our lives. God desires us to stand firm in our belief that God is with us as we face those difficult circumstances which overwhelm us. The widows have no hope of a better life and yet they know God will provide.
The scriptures today are showing us what complete dependence on God means. We need to face all obstacles by first suppress our initial instinct for self-preservation and rationalization of why we should not respond. If what God is asking you to respond to which seems impossible stop, think and pray. Acknowledge the prompting to respond and reflect on it. Is there an unhealthy relationship God is telling you to break away from? Are your finances squeezed by circumstances beyond your control and you are being requested to give more? Is someone inviting you to something spiritual that is outside the comfort of the law? Are you being asked to open the door of your heart to allow Jesus to reveal himself to you and you are not comfortable with that thought?
God is consistent in his invitation to follow him and trust. We see it in the Exodus; we see in in the call of the disciples; we see it in the call of Mary; we see it every word and action of Jesus. Today we hear it in these stories to listen to the voice speaking to us to give of ourselves and depend on God to gift us with life lived by the code written on our hearts by the Spirit.